Trust is the backbone of successful affiliate programs. It’s the key factor in whether an affiliate promotes you the first time…and if they keep promoting you long-term. Today we explore the strategies and techniques that will solidify your position as a trustworthy affiliate manager. Get ready to unlock the secrets to building trust and credibility with your affiliates. Let’s dive right in!

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If you are ready to take your business to the next level and start an affiliate program, start with my free report, Your First 100 Affiliates. This report takes nearly two decades of experience, trial and error, and lessons learned about finding top affiliates in nearly every conceivable niche and puts them all into one report. Grab your copy here!


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Previous Episodes of The Affiliate Guy

How to Fail Your Way to Success with Omar Zenhom

How to Avoid the Most Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes

Why Your Affiliate Program is Failing (And What to Do About It)

How to Build Strong Relationships with Your Affiliates

How to Use a Challenge for Affiliate Marketing: How Entrepreneurs on Fire Made More than $250,000 in One Affiliate Launch

How to Build Trust and Credibility with Your Affiliates

Trust is the backbone of successful affiliate programs. It is the key factor in whether an affiliate chooses to promote you the very first time and if they keep promoting you long term. So today we’re going to explore the strategies and techniques that will solidify your position as a trustworthy affiliate manager.

So get ready to unlock the secrets to building trust and credibility with your affiliates. Let’s dive right in.

You know, I said at the top, trust is the backbone of successful affiliate programs. Here’s the thing: Without trust, nothing else matters. I talked seven, eight episodes ago about the number one trait of great affiliate managers. I talked about tenacity.

Doesn’t matter if you don’t have trust. I’ve talked about all the tools you need to provide your affiliates and how to create great swipe copy and graphics and affiliate portals. Doesn’t matter if you don’t have trust.

I’ve talked about how to negotiate deals that benefit both you and the affiliate. And I’ve talked about all these things right, how to get your affiliates to promote more, how to create promotion plans, and how to get them to add an extra bonus. And all the things that I’ve talked about on this show, none of them matter if you don’t have trust.

I don’t know if you can believe this, but this is the 556th episode I’ve ever done of this show, and it probably should have been one of the first two. I talk a lot about both affiliate management and affiliate marketing. So maybe the first one was about affiliate marketing, and this should have been the second one because nothing else matters if you don’t have trust.

Affiliates trust you to track their sales properly. They trust you to set up the tracking so that their clicks track into leads and their leads track into sales. They trust you to convert well, they trust you to pay them on time, to actually pay them because many times they’ve scheduled a two, three, four-week promo.

Sometimes they’ve blocked off an entire month to promote you. And that’s an opportunity of their own that they passed up. They could have made, let’s just say, $20,000 promoting something else so they trust you.

I have been in situations where we didn’t get paid by an affiliate program that we promoted. And thankfully, it was at a time when it didn’t negatively affect us in the sense of like, oh, crap, we can’t make payroll. We weren’t reliant on that.

But there have been times where I think back and go, gosh, if that program didn’t pay me if they didn’t track if it didn’t go as I planned, I might have had to have let somebody go. And I’m saying that was wise, but that’s how important this trust factor is. So let’s talk about that.

Let’s talk about how to create trust today, how to get your affiliates to trust you, to build that credibility with potential affiliates, and then keep that trust with your current affiliates. And it starts with this isn’t number one. I’m going to get to number one in a second.

If you are ready to take your business to the next level and start an affiliate program, start with my free report, Your First 100 Affiliates. This report takes nearly two decades of experience, trial and error, and lessons learned about finding top affiliates in nearly every conceivable niche and puts them all into one report. Grab your copy here!

But it starts with connecting and building relationships. And I talked about probably two dozen episodes. Just probably six episodes ago, I talked about how to build great relationships with your affiliates.

So go back and listen to that, because if you have a great relationship with somebody, you are more likely to trust them. I don’t have to have a great relationship with the affiliate managers I work with, but if I do, I’m more likely to trust them because we have that bond that goes beyond just making each other some money. So it starts there.

That’s kind of the foundational piece. So go back and listen to those episodes where I’ve talked about building relationships. All right?

So number one thing you got to do to build trust is you got to know your stuff. You simply cannot be a trustworthy affiliate manager if you are a doofus when it comes to marketing. If you don’t know the product, you’ve got to be a marketing genius.

Am I saying you have to be the best marketer on Earth? No. Then you probably wouldn’t be an affiliate manager. But you need to know marketing. You need to keep up with stuff. You need to like it’s 2023.

As I’m recording this, please don’t talk about Google Plus if you still think Google Plus is around. I don’t trust you. To be a good affiliate manager, you need to know what’s working for your affiliate program.

That means you need to be up to date with the general marketing, but you need to know what’s going on in your program. What are successful affiliates doing? If you don’t know those things, I don’t trust you. If you do know those things, I’m more likely to trust you.

The second thing that builds trust, I mean, applies to life, right? Be honest. Be honest. If something’s broken, communicate it. Just in general, you have to maintain open and honest communications, and any problems that arise, communicate them quickly and keep them updated.

And so I will give you an example. Years and years ago, about 2012, I remember being up till like, three in the morning one night dealing with this. The tracking went down for a program that I was running.

It just stopped working in the middle of the day. I heard about it from an affiliate who was testing their link at 230 in the afternoon. And my first reaction when one affiliate reports something like this out of this was a big program.

We had 25, 30,000 affiliates. When one affiliate reports something is yeah, right. It’s probably a user error, but I checked it out, and I was an affiliate for the company as well.

Obviously, I had a test account, and the same thing happened to me. It didn’t track. Crap. What’s going on? I knew that reporting was updating because I could see sales happening. The sales were happening.

They just weren’t tracking the affiliates. And I’m going, okay, so something’s going on here. It’s tracking the click, but it’s not tracking any of the leads or sales.

And so I’m like, okay, there’s something broken. Let’s figure this out. And so the very first thing I did was just confirm.

I don’t want to raise a red flag when one doesn’t need to be raised. So I just confirmed again. I went and looked at some of our top affiliates that typically generate at least a sale per hour.

And I’m like, do any of them have a sale? When was the last time any one of them had a sale? And when I looked, it was like I looked at one affiliate, and they had a sale at, like, 11:30, 12:10, 12:32 01:00.

And then all of a sudden, it was like, nothing after 1:05 or something. And I looked at another affiliate, and it was nothing since, like, 1:17, when they’d already had 15-20 sales that day. I looked at, like, three or four top affiliates.

None of them had any sales. The last one was, like, at 1:17. And I went, okay, there’s no way they’ve gone over an hour and 15 minutes collectively with zero sales.

That’s just impossible. That doesn’t happen in the middle of the day. So I continued to test. I tested different links. None of them were working. That whole process only took ten minutes, so I did not delay very long.

I figured out what was going on. And the first thing I did was I reached out to the affiliates and said, hey, I just want to give you a heads up. I’ve heard and I have verified something is wrong with tracking.

I have nothing else to report. I just want you to know that we are on top of this. That was it.

That was all I said, and I will continue to update you throughout the day. I said I’m creating a blog post. If you go to the link right now, it doesn’t work, because I’m going to create it.

But I created a blog post where I kept things updated as many companies do. Software companies have their status page, right? And I sent that email, and that was all I did for, like, the next as far as communication for the next hour.

Then I immediately got with the company that we were doing the tracking through, and I worked through it, and then about an hour later, I messaged the affiliates back and posted on the thing and said, hey, I still have no updates. Again, here’s the link to the tracking page. I’ll post micro updates there.

My next update, if I don’t have anything else, if I don’t have an affirmation or whatever, a confirmation that it’s working today, my next update via email will not be until tomorrow, but I’ll continue to update this page.

And thankfully, this issue only went on until, like I said, about three in the morning or so. And I usually turn my phone off at night so I don’t get awakened, but I got an alert at 2:30, and they let me know it was fixed.

And so I sent an email out and updated the page. But throughout that day, I continued to post on that page to say, here’s what we’re doing to address it, and I promise you we will make this right. Like, I just reassured them. So be honest, and communicate those issues quickly.

Third, pay on time, every time. Do not ever be late.

Now I realize things happen. We had an issue with a client a couple of years ago where they were outside, they’re not in the US. And they unexpectedly, like, they’ve paid on time every time for a hundred straight months.

And all of a sudden something happened with their bank, and they required some documentation, and they couldn’t pay affiliates, and it took weeks. Those things happen. All right, that happens.

And the issue that we had in that particular case was, quite frankly, we did not communicate as well as we should have, and it really hurt the program. And the Facebook group for that program kind of became a dumpster fire where everybody’s just complaining about it. And the reality is, if we’d been out quicker in front of it if we’d followed my rule and communicated early and often, it wouldn’t have been an issue.

Part of it was we communicated that there was an issue after the payments were already late. We could have, in theory, communicated with them. The day before, I think, is when we knew.

But there was going to be an issue. And part of that was we were told that they probably still wouldn’t be late or they’d only be like, a day late. So it’s like, okay, if there’s only whatever.

We chose not to do anything when the reality is what we should have said. “Hey, payments might be late.” If you think you might be late, communicate.

All right? If you think you might just remember that it rhymes. If you think you might be late, communicate.

Otherwise, pay on time every single time. Speaking of payment minutes, make sure your commissions are right. And I talked about this a couple of episodes ago, how to attract affiliates with the right commission.

The key here is just to make sure you are staying competitive, which means you have to pay attention to the competition. Don’t make affiliates even think you might be trying to cheat them out of a fair commission. If you have a reason for paying a 30% commission when the competition is at 40, ie, hey, we convert much better, and we convert the same as them, but our price is twice as high, or we provide a better service, whatever.

Make sure your affiliates know that and keep up with the competition, because if you’re at 30% and they go to 50, I mean, dang, you better really be able to sell the fact that you’re converting better. If they go to 50, you may need to go to 40. So make sure your commissions are right.

The number five way to build trust and credibility is just clear communication. Make your communication easy to understand. If you send out emails, which you should be, make them in a consistent format so they know where to look.

When your emails are all different, different font sizes and they’re different styles and different formats. Like, sometimes you have this here, and sometimes you have this here. They don’t know where to look.

It kind of seems a little bit shady. One of the easiest ways to do this is just to follow our template. We put together a template for our team.

It’s our affiliate program email template. Just go grab that, Gregor. I’ll put a link in the show notes, but it’s mattmcwilliams.com/aetemplate for an affiliate email template. That’s the easiest way just to follow that.

So here’s the thing. Follow a consistent format and a consistent way of communicating. If sometimes you’re very corporate like, “Hello, my name” is that’s weird.

I don’t know why I do that. Like, what do you say my name is? But you’re like, hello, today, I would like to blah, blah, blah.

And you’re really corporate in your emails, and the next day you’re like, dude, what’s up? That’s not consistent. You need to be consistent.

That builds trust. But if you have bad news going back to what I said earlier, don’t follow the template. Don’t write an email.

You’ll see it in the email. I talk about rah-rah, like, really celebrating. Don’t send an email that says, hey, guys, the launch is amazing.

By the way, some bad news here. No, cut right to the chase. This email is about bad news and bad news only. I’m going to just rip the bandaid boom, and I’m going to focus on clear communication.

Number six, we sort of touched on this earlier, but get to know your affiliates. This is a key to trust. This is key to developing trust with your affiliates. So how do you get to know them? I talked about this a few episodes ago on relationships.

But follow them on social media. Get to know them as a person. Know their spouses, name their kids’ names, and know what sports their kids play. Know where they went to college. Study them.

Study them. You don’t have to stalk them, and you don’t have to know all 500,000 affiliates if you got 500,000, or even a thousand if you have 1000. But you should know a little bit about your affiliates.

You should know I have one affiliate that I think you might be listening to, so you might know who you are. And he’s going through a particularly rough time. I’ll just say that with a health challenge.

So when I reach out to him, if I don’t ask how he’s doing, and not just how’s life lately, but if I don’t acknowledge the fact that he’s going through this health challenge, why would he trust me? Isn’t that just part of being a good person? Maybe this one is to be a good person. Be a good human who gets to know people above and beyond just transactional.

The 7th thing to build trust is we’re going to flip things here. I want you to look at other programs, and I want you to look at how they break trust.

Join affiliate programs. I’ve said this 100 times. Join other affiliate programs. Join your competitors’ programs. Join similar programs. Join programs that are in a completely different niche, but maybe have the same business model.

So if you’re software that works with authors, just for example, join affiliate programs for software that work with completely different niches so you can see how they do things. This is a general tip here. Follow other programs.

Put yourself in the affiliate’s shoes. If you see something that they do that drives you nuts, then address it on your end. A few examples that come to mind on this.

The first was about seven years ago as an affiliate. About eight years ago, I guess more things drove me nuts. It was so hard to find anything.

They had swipe copy in the emails, but not in a Google Doc, or they had it in a Google Doc or things were just in a Google Drive, and it was hard to find everything. And I’m like, Why don’t we put everything in a portal? I didn’t invent this eight years ago.

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Actually, this is nine years ago now. I didn’t invent this nine years ago. Portals have been around for almost 15 years in the affiliate world.

But in the launch world, kind of the JV launch world, nobody was doing it like, let’s put everything in an affiliate portal and make this stupid easy. So we started creating them. Everything was easy to find.

Now everybody’s doing them, because if you followed my program that I’m running and said, wow, they’re doing this makes things really easy, you felt compelled to do it for your own program. If you followed another program and saw man, it’s really challenging, they make everything hard. We’re going to flip that.

Live Leaderboards. Live Leaderboards. They came about eight, or nine years ago as well, because as an affiliate, it drove me nuts to go 24 to 48 hours between leaderboard updates.

I wanted to know, is this thing that I did, look, I made 20 sales in the last 24 hours. Did I even move up? Did that do anything?

I wanted to know because I might be in the running for a top spot. And so we created Live Leaderboards, which ironically, is something that builds trust. Think about it.

If you go 48 hours without a leaderboard update, what are you trying to hide? Is it because the leaderboard hasn’t moved? Wow, the top ten hasn’t moved at all.

Does that mean this isn’t going very well? Did somebody that was unexpected move into the top five? And for some reason, you don’t want people to know that the more you hide stuff like that, the more you’re losing trust.

And so I didn’t think about it at the time. I didn’t think about it until just now. But live leaderboards. Actually, help build trust.

But that’s just something that’s an example there where you’re seeing things that drive you nuts as an affiliate that you learn by watching other programs, by being an affiliate yourself. Uncommissionable sales.

This probably could be its own bullet point here, but un commissionable sales, I see this all the time in affiliate programs. I log in, I check my sales, and I have ten sales, but only nine of them are commissionable. Why is that?

This kills trust. So maybe this is number eight, but this kills trust. But this is an example of something that I saw in affiliate programs, and I vowed not to have these in our programs.

We are not going to run affiliate programs that have un-commissionable sales because I saw it as an affiliate and I said, this is horrible, so I want you to look, what do other programs do that make you go, OOH, that breaks my trust? If you put yourself in the affiliate’s shoes and if it breaks your trust, look at your own program and vow never to make that same mistake. Vow to go in the other direction.

We didn’t have to do live leaderboards. We could have just said, you know, we’re going to release a leaderboard every 12 hours, or we’re going to just make sure that we release at least one every day. We’re not going to do a portal, but we’re going to create a page that just kind of has links to everything or un-commissionable sales.

We’re just going to make sure we explain them on the front end. That was the original version of all those, but I went, no, we’re just not going to have un-commissionable sales. You know what?

Once every 24 to 40 hours is not enough. We’re going to go every hour with these live leaderboards, every half hour in the last 12 hours of the launch. We’re going to create beautiful affiliate portals.

So think of ways that you observe in other programs and then turn it on its head and go run in the completely opposite direction. The 8th thing you got to do to build trust is you got to protect against fraud. It is really hard for your affiliates to trust you if you allow fraud in the program.

So just a couple of examples that come to mind here. Years ago, we were in a big launch and we had a fraudster. We had a guy that used to work for the company that we created.

I’m trying to think of how to say this without naming the company. The company that our client used to create all of our pages, all the landing pages, and stuff. A guy used to work for this company and he put code on the page that basically took one out of every 28 clicks or something and gave it to him.

The craziest possible fraud I’ve ever heard of in my life.

I’ve heard of lots of different kinds. It’s not very common, but enough of it over the years, and I never imagined something like this would happen. But as soon as we found out about it, I communicated it to the affiliates.

This helped build trust because they know I have their back. Another example years ago, almost a decade ago now, was when we had an affiliate violating our terms and conditions. He was a trademark bidding on a big company whose affiliate program I ran.

And I first heard about it from an affiliate. At that time, I did not know. I had not learned yet. This was in 2011, actually. So I had not learned yet that an affiliate will break the rules and they will bid on so we talked about this a few episodes ago. Some programs allow trademark bidding and some don’t, where they bid on your trademark, right on your company name.

This company did not allow it. I’m agnostic about it. I can see where sometimes you’d want to allow it, and sometimes you wouldn’t.

But this one did not allow it. Well, what they would do is they would geo-target their ads, so they would bid most of the world, they would bid on the search term. They would trademark bids, but they would geotarget out of our area.

They would know where I lived. And at that time, I lived in a different place, and they knew I lived there. And so they would geotarget it out.

So when I would run the reports, I would never see their ads. I didn’t know at that time. Now, it’s really easy to have companies that can run these reports, and it costs less than $100 a month, and you can find the fraud.

But I didn’t know that you could go into Google and change your location. And when I learned that I found somebody that was doing fraud because an affiliate reported it to me, I’m like, no, they’re not. And they’re like, yes they are.

And they’re taking screenshots. They’re like, here’s the fraud. I’m like, I don’t see this ad.

And then they were like, Wait a minute. Go in and change your location. And I did.

And that’s how we were able to prove this person was breaking the rules. But again, in that particular case, as soon as I found out about it, I did something about it. And it’s your job to protect against fraud and solve fraud when it happens because that helps build trust.

Because again, your affiliates know that you have their back. The 9th way to build trust is to build community. The community is trustworthy.

When you build a community, everything’s out in the open. When you’re posting something publicly, then they know it’s trustworthy. Because why would he tell everybody that?

He’s not just telling me that, right? And when you create a collaboration between affiliates, when you create knowledge sharing, when you create networking among affiliates, when you create a supportive environment, it fosters that trust because you’re the one who created that environment, therefore you’re trustworthy. So build community.

Have a Facebook group or some other way for your affiliates to engage with each other in the open. And number ten is personalized quick support. Your affiliates aren’t just a group.

They need personalized support, especially your top ones. They need specific help. What things do they need that maybe other affiliates don’t need?

Be accessible to make yourself accessible to your affiliates. So multiple channels. We’ve talked about this before. Not just email, but Facebook, DMs Instagram, DMs text, and skype. WhatsApp? Voxer.

What are the other ones? I’ve got the communication ones I have on my phone here. If you use Slack. I said text. Those are probably the big ones there that you need to make sure that you’re on and available and respond quickly.

We have a rule in our company. It’s 24 hours, 24 business hours. If it’s a launch, it’s much quicker. But if it’s just a regular Tuesday and you can’t respond within 24 hours, you know you’re not going to be able to.

Because our affiliate managers have lives. They sometimes even go on vacations. Believe it or not, when they do, make sure you’re covered.

That’s all we require. We have unlimited time off. You can take a month off a year, I don’t care.

But as long as you’re covered and you’re not like, have a big client launch in the middle of that time, it’s right. But I don’t care if you take Friday off. Just make sure that everybody who emails somebody else on the team is covering it because if you’re not, that creates a lack of trust.

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I emailed you Thursday night. I know it was late on Thursday, but at least I expected to hear back before the weekend. I don’t hear back till Monday.

A little bit of a ding in the trust there. It’s not the end all be all, but it’s a little ding. And the last one here, which is kind of a bonus one, is to help them help themselves beyond just your affiliate program.

Oh, yeah, I’m going to help them double their commissions. Well, that doubles your revenue too. So we’re going to want to build a long-term commitment, a long-term relationship.

Show them that you value them beyond just the short-term goals. We want to build strong, lasting relationships, so help them with their own marketing. Teach them what’s working for you.

If you see a problem on their site, tell them. I literally just texted an affiliate earlier. I was just on their site and I noticed a typo.

There was an extra word, so I texted him and said, hey, found a typo on your site. And he messaged me back and said, thanks so much. Hey, by the way. And he asked me about setting up a call in a couple of weeks to talk about some possible marketing stuff.

Give them advice if you see an article that you think would benefit them, share it with them. You release some content that would benefit them.

Share it with them. If you have a call with one affiliate and you learn something really cool, share it with another affiliate. If they didn’t want you to, that’s different.

But I’m saying protect them. But we won’t go into that whole thing. But the idea here is to develop those long-term relationships by helping them help themselves essentially beyond just things you can do to help them make more money as an affiliate because you have a self-interest in that.

Show them ways that you don’t have a self-interest. And in a way, though, if you give them a tip that helps them grow their email list, by 10%, well, it is helping you because that means there are 10% more people next year that they’re going to market to. So there are self-interested parts of this.

So that is how we build trust with our affiliates. Again, I’ll say again what I said at the very beginning. This is the backbone of a successful affiliate program.

So, hey, I would love to hear from you your biggest takeaway on this. Shoot me a text anytime. 260-217-4619. If you want to share your biggest takeaway from today’s episode, how are you going to build trust?

That’s my question for you. Which of these are you going to really lean into over the next week or two to start building better trust with your affiliates? Text me – 260-217-4619

Are you going to become more educated about marketing and know your stuff, know your product well? Is it just communicating issues quickly? Committing to paying on time every time, making sure your commissions are right, clear communication, committing to getting to know your affiliates?

Are you going to sign up for some other affiliate programs and look for how they break trust and obviously other things? Protecting against fraud, building community, committing to that personalized quick support, and helping them in ways above and beyond just your affiliate program. Which one of these are you going to implement in the next seven days or really focus on here for the next seven days?

So again, text me at 260-217-4619. Lastly, make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss the next episode. We’re going to talk about how to get affiliates excited to promote.

I’m excited about that one. I’m excited about this one because we’re going to talk about the art of getting affiliates genuinely excited to spread the word about your products and services, how to get them to promote, be eager, and promote like they never have before. So make sure you hit subscribe so you don’t miss that episode.

I’ll see you then.


Text me anytime at (260) 217-4619.

Or…check out some of my free reports to help you get on the right track:

Find Your First 100 Affiliates

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Affiliate Program Terms & Conditions Template

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Ultimate Guide to Affiliate Marketing with a resources page

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